Presumption of Damage in Defamation is rebuttable
The defendant complained that the presumption in English law that the victim of a libel had suffered damage was incompatible with his right to a fair trial. They said the statements complained of were repetitions of statements made by US authorities. The claimant had asserted that no more than five people had read the article complained of.
Held: The presumption of damage was well established in UK law, but the presumption is not irrebuttable. The presumption is not incompatible with Article 10 of the Convention.
It can be an abuse of process to pursue litigation where the value to the litigant of a successful outcome is so small as to make the exercise pointless, viewed against the expenditure of court time and the parties’ time and money engaged by the undertaking: ‘We accept that in the rare case where a claimant brings an action for defamation in circumstances where his reputation has suffered no or minimal actual damage, this may constitute an interference with freedom of expression that is not necessary for the protection of the claimant’s reputation. In such circumstances the appropriate remedy for the defendant may well be to . . seek to strike out the action as an abuse of process.’
Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers MR said: ‘in the rare case where a claimant brings an action for defamation in circumstances where his reputation has suffered no or minimal actual damage, this may constitute an interference with freedom of expression that is not necessary for the protection of the claimant’s reputation. In such circumstances the appropriate remedy for the defendant may well be to challenge the claimant’s resort to English jurisdiction or to seek to strike out the action as an abuse of process . . An abuse of process is of concern not merely to the parties but to the court. It is no longer the role of the court simply to provide a level playing-field and to referee whatever game the parties choose to play upon it. The court is concerned to ensure that judicial and court resources are appropriately and proportionately used in accordance with the requirements of justice.
There have been two recent developments which have rendered the court more ready to entertain a submission that pursuit of a libel action is an abuse of process. The first is the introduction of the new Civil Procedure Rules. Pursuit of the overriding objective requires an approach by the court to litigation that is both more flexible and more proactive. The second is the coming into effect of the Human Rights Act 1998. Section 6 requires the court, as a public authority, to administer the law in a manner which is compatible with Convention rights, in so far as it is possible to do so. Keeping a proper balance between the article 10 right of freedom of expression and the protection of individual reputation must, so it seems to us, require the court to bring to a stop as an abuse of process defamation proceedings that are not serving the legitimate purpose of protecting the claimant’s reputation, which includes compensating the claimant only if that reputation has been unlawfully damaged . . It would be an abuse of process to continue to commit the resources of the English court, including substantial judge and possibly jury time, to an action where so little is now seen to be at stake. Normally where a small claim is brought, it will be dealt with by a proportionate small claims procedure. Such a course is not available in an action for defamation where, although the claim is small, the issues are complex and subject to special procedure under the CPR’.
‘There have always been strong pragmatic reasons for proceeding on the premise that a defamatory publication will have caused the victim some damage rather than opening the door to the claimant and the defendant each marshalling witnesses to say that, respectively, they did or did not consider that the article damaged the claimant’s reputation.’
Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers MR, Lord Justice Sedley And Lord Justice Jonathan Parker
 EWCA Civ 75, Times 14-Feb-2005,  EMLR 16,  QB 946,  2 WLR 1614,  EMLR 353
Civil Procedure Rules 1.1(2), European Convention on Human Rights 10
England and Wales
Cited – Shevill and Others v Presse Alliance SA HL 26-Jul-1996
A libel case against a French paper was rightly brought in UK despite the small (250 copies nationally and 5 in the plaintiff’s local area (Yorkshire)) circulation here. The Brussels Convention allows a claim for defamation in UK though the main . .
Cited – Multigroup Bulgaria Holding AD v Oxford Analytica Ltd 2001
An article defaming an identifiable individual would give rise to a cause of action even where no one reading the article had prior knowledge of the victim. It could not seriously be suggested that ‘under English law an individual human being has to . .
Cited – Berezovsky v Forbes Inc and Michaels; Glouchkov v Same HL 16-May-2000
Plaintiffs who lived in Russia sought damages for defamation against an American magazine with a small distribution in England. Both plaintiffs had real connections with and reputations in England. A judgment in Russia would do nothing to repair the . .
No longer Good law – Duke of Brunswick v Harmer QBD 2-Nov-1849
On 19 September 1830 an article was published in the Weekly Dispatch. The limitation period for libel was six years. The article defamed the Duke of Brunswick. Seventeen years after its publication an agent of the Duke purchased a back number . .
Cited – Morgan v Odhams Press Ltd HL 1971
The plaintiff claimed in defamation. The defence was that the words did not refer to the plaintiff and could not be understood to refer to him.
Held: The question as to what meaning words are capable of bearing has been described as a question . .
Cited – Spiliada Maritime Corporation v Cansulex Ltd, The Spiliada HL 1986
Forum Non Conveniens Restated
The House reviewed the authorities on the principle of forum non conveniens and restated how to apply the principle where the defendant seeks a stay of proceedings on the ground that there is another more appropriate forum.
Held: ‘In the . .
Cited – Handyside v The United Kingdom ECHR 7-Dec-1976
The appellant had published a ‘Little Red Schoolbook’. He was convicted under the 1959 and 1964 Acts on the basis that the book was obscene, it tending to deprave and corrupt its target audience, children. The book claimed that it was intended to . .
Cited – Zana v Turkey ECHR 25-Nov-1997
Turkey – prison sentence imposed by Diyarbakir National Security Court on account of a statement to journalists (Articles 168 and 312 of the Criminal Code) – accused unable to appear at hearing in that court (Article 226 – 4 of the Code of Criminal . .
Cited – Prager And Oberschlick v Austria ECHR 26-Apr-1995
Article 10 requires that journalists be permitted a good deal of latitude in how they present their material and that a degree of exaggeration must also be accepted. The media have a special place in any democratic society as purveyor of information . .
Cited – The Sunday Times v The United Kingdom (No 2) ECHR 26-Nov-1991
Any prior restraint on freedom of expression calls for the most careful scrutiny. ‘Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society subject to paragraph (2) of Article 10. It is applicable not only to . .
Cited – The Sunday Times (No 1) v The United Kingdom ECHR 26-Apr-1979
Offence must be ;in accordance with law’
The court considered the meaning of the need for an offence to be ‘in accordance with law.’ The applicants did not argue that the expression prescribed by law required legislation in every case, but contended that legislation was required only where . .
Mentioned – E Hulton and Co v Jones HL 1910
An article was written by a correspondent of an English newspaper reporting that at a large and well attended motor vehicle show in France there on the terraces was ‘Artemus Jones with a woman not his wife who must be you know – the other thing.’ . .
Cited – Kroch v Rossell CA 1937
The plaintiff brought libel proceedings against the publishers of French and Belgian newspapers. He obtained permission to serve each defendant out of the jurisdiction on the ground that a small number of copies of each newspaper had been published . .
Cited – Wallis v Valentine and others CA 5-Mar-2002
The court dismissed an appeal by the claimant against the striking out of his claim as an abuse of process. That was an extreme case where the judge had found that even if the claimant succeeded his damages would be very modest, perhaps nominal, and . .
Cited – Loutchansky v The Times Newspapers Ltd and Others (Nos 2 to 5) CA 5-Dec-2001
Two actions for defamation were brought by the claimant against the defendant. The publication reported in detail allegations made against the claimant of criminal activities including money-laundering on a vast scale. They admitted the defamatory . .
Cited – Schellenberg v British Broadcasting Corporation QBD 2000
The claimant had settled defamation actions against the Guardian and the Sunday Times on disadvantageous terms, when it seemed likely that he was about to lose. He then pressed on with this almost identical action against the BBC.
Held: A . .
Cited – Hough v London Express CA 1940
The court looked at whether it was necessary to show actual damage to a reputation in a defamation case: ‘If words are used which impute discreditable conduct to my friend, he has been defamed to me, although I do not believe the imputation and may . .
Cited – Chadha and Osicom Technologies Inc v Dow Jones and Co Inc CA 14-May-1999
All the parties were resident in the United States. The alleged libel consisted in an article published in an American magazine. The total sales of the edition in question were 294,346 of which 283,520 were sold in the United States, 408 were sent . .
Cited – Hulton and Co v Jones HL 6-Dec-1909
The defendant newspaper published an article describing the attendance at a motor race at Dieppe. It described the antics, intending to refer to a fictitious person, of one Artemus Jones, and said of him that he was ‘with a woman who is not his . .
Cited – McBride v The Body Shop International Plc QBD 10-Jul-2007
The claimant sought damages for libel in an internal email written by her manager, accusing her of being a compulsive liar. The email had not been disclosed save in Employment Tribunal proceedings, and the claimant sought permission to use the email . .
Cited – Steinberg v Pritchard Englefield (A Firm) and Another CA 3-Mar-2005
The defendant appealed dismissal of his defence to an action in defamation.
Held: The court proceeded in his absence, discerning two grounds of appeal from the papers. He had suggested that he awaited pro bono representation but was by . .
Cited – Nigel Smith v M QBD 12-May-2008
The claimants sought disclosure of material which would lead to the identification of people who had made postings to a forum on the internet.
Held: The court had aready imposed a stay on the issuing of further proceedings, yet the claimant . .
Cited – Bunt v Tilley and others QBD 10-Mar-2006
The claimant sought damages in defamation in respect of statements made on internet bulletin boards. He pursued the operators of the bulletin boards, and the court now considered the liability of the Internet Service Providers whose systems had . .
Cited – Adelson and Another v Associated Newspapers QBD 19-Feb-2008
Complaint was made that an article was defamatory of the owner of Manchester United. The defendant now argued that the game was not worth the candle. The costs vastly exceeded any possible recovery, and it had openly offered vindication, and that . .
Cited – Mardas v New York Times Company and Another QBD 17-Dec-2008
The claimant sought damages in defamation. The US publisher defendants denied that there had been any sufficient publication in the UK and that the court did not have jurisdiction. The claimant appealed the strike out of the claims.
Held: The . .
Cited – Haji-Ioannou v Dixon, Regus Group Plc and Another QBD 6-Feb-2009
The defendants sought to strike out the defamation claim on the basis that it was an abuse of process. It was brought by the founder of Easyjet against senior officers of a company in a new venture. The claimant had alleged misuse of confidential . .
Cited – White v Withers Llp and Dearle CA 27-Oct-2009
The claimant was involved in matrimonial ancillary relief proceedings. His wife was advised by the defendants, her solicitors, to remove his private papers. The claimant now sought permission to appeal against a strike out of his claim against the . .
Cited – Sectorguard Plc v Dienne Plc ChD 3-Nov-2009
The claimant alleged misuse of confidential information in the form of its customer list, and its charges to them. The defendant company was run by former employees of the claimant. A later allegation was made of accessing the defendant’s private . .
Cited – Budu v The British Broadcasting Corporation QBD 23-Mar-2010
The defendant sought to strike out the claimant’s action in defamation. It had reported that the police had withdrawn an employment offer to claimant after doubting his immigration status.
Held: The claims should be struck out. The articles . .
Cited – Baturina v Times Newspapers Ltd QBD 31-Mar-2010
The claimant sought damages in defamation in respect of an article published by the defendant newspaper. She was the wife of the Mayor of Moscow, and was required to disclose on a public list assets held by her. The defendant said that she owned a . .
Cited – Hays Plc v Hartley QBD 17-May-2010
Mr Hartley operated a news agency, and provided to the publisher of the Sunday Mirror, MGN Ltd, allegations of racism that had been levelled at the claimant company by former employees. The allegations were reported in an article headed ”KKK . .
Applied – Kaschke v Osler QBD 13-May-2010
The claimant sued in defamation as regards the defendant’s comments in his internet blog on her historical left wing political connections. She complained that they made a connection with terrorist activities. The defendant said that the article was . .
Cited – Brady v Norman QBD 26-May-2010
The claimant appealed against refusal of the Master to extend the 12 month limitation period in his proposed defamation claim. The allegations related to a dispute at an Aslef barbecue, and later of forgery. The claimant was a former General . .
Cited – Henderson v London Borough of Hackney and Another QBD 5-Jul-2010
The claimant alleged defamation by the defendant in a referral letter sent to a third party. She had been dismissed from a non-teaching post after having been found using school computers to access pornography. The letter had reported the findings . .
Cited – Kaschke v Gray and Another QBD 23-Jul-2010
The claimant sought damages in defamation saying that the defendants had published a web page which falsely associated her with a terrorist gang in the 1970s. The defendants now sought a strike out of her claim as an abuse saying that a similar . .
Cited – Lonzim Plc and Others v Sprague QBD 11-Nov-2009
The court asked whether any damages recovered by the claimant might be so small as to be totally disproportionate to the very high costs that any libel action involves.
Held: Tugendhat J said: ‘It is not enough for a claimant to say that a . .
Cited – Williams v MGN Ltd QBD 2-Dec-2009
The claimant, who had been convicted of murder, complained that an article defamed him by calling him a ‘grass’ or police informer. The defendant asked that the claimant’s defamation action be struck out as an abuse.
Held: While the suggestion . .
Cited – Baturina v Times Newspapers Ltd CA 23-Mar-2011
The claimant appealed against directions given in her defamation action against the defendant. It had been said that she owned a house, and the defendant said that this was not defamatory. The claimant said that as the wife of the Mayor of Moscow . .
Cited – Cook v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 29-Mar-2011
The claimant, an MP, complained in defamation of the defendant’s description of his rejected expenses claim regarding an assistant’s charitable donation. The paper pleaded a Reynolds defence. The claimant said that when published the defendant knew . .
Cited – Lewis v Commissioner of Police of The Metropolis and Others (Rev 1) QBD 31-Mar-2011
The defendant sought a ruling on the meaning of the words but using section 69(4) of the 1981 Act. The claimant solicitor was acting in complaints as to the unlawful interception of celebrity voicemails by agents of the press. There had been debate . .
Cited – Wright v Caan QBD 27-Jul-2011
The claimant sought damages in defamation and malicious falsehood and in respect of a conversation with a journalist and the defendant’s website. The defendant had made offers of support to her business venture in a television program. After she . .
Cited – Morrissey v McNicholas and Another QBD 26-Oct-2011
The claimant musician alleged defamation, saying that the defendant had accused him of being a right wing racist. The defendant now applied to strike out the claim as an abuse of process because of the claimant’s delay.
Held: The application . .
Cited – Tilbrook v Parr QBD 13-Jul-2012
The claimant, chair of a political party, the English Democrats, said that a blog written and published on the Internet by the defendant was defamatory and contained malicious falsehoods. The blog was said to associate the claimant’s party with . .
Cited – Tamiz v Google Inc Google UK Ltd QBD 2-Mar-2012
The claimant sought damages in defamation against the defendant company offering internet search facilities. The words complained of had been published in a blog, and in comments published on the blog.
Held: Jurisdiction should be declined. . .
Cited – Makudi v Baron Triesman of Tottenham In London Borough of Haringey QBD 1-Feb-2013
The claimant, former chairman of the Thailand Football Association, claimed in defamation against the defendant who had been chairman of the English Football Association. The defendant asked the court to strike out the claim, saying that some of the . .
Applied – Citation Plc v Ellis Whittam Ltd CA 8-Mar-2013
The parties competed in providing employment law services. The claimant complained of slanderous comments said to have been made by the defendant in discussions with a firm of solicitors seeking to select a firm. The claimant now appealed against . .
Cited – McGrath and Another v Dawkins and Others CA 5-Feb-2013
The claimant appealed against a finding that the defendant Amazon was bound to succeed in its defence under the 2002 Regulations against the claim in defamation, and that the claim should be dismissed as an abuse of process under Jameel. He had . .
Cited – Hannon and Another v News Group Newspapers Ltd and Another ChD 16-May-2014
The claimants alleged infringement of their privacy, saying that the defendant newspaper had purchased private information from police officers emplyed by the second defendant, and published them. The defendants now applied for the claims to be . .
Cited – Jeeg Global Ltd v Hare QBD 29-Mar-2012
The claimant had obtained an order restricting the defendant from asserting any kind of insolvency in the claimant. The defendant now sought the strike out of the claim as an abuse of process. He said that any such disclosure had been on one . .
Cited – Reed Elsevier Uk Ltd (T/A Lexisnexis) and Another v Bewry CA 30-Oct-2014
Appeal from a decision granting the claimant’s application made pursuant to section 32A of the Limitation Act 1980 to disapply the limitation period in his proceedings for libel and dismissing the defendants’ application to strike out the claimant’s . .
Cited – Tamiz v Google Inc CA 14-Feb-2013
The respondent hosted a blogs platform. One of its user’s blogs was said by the appellant to have been defamatory. On discovery the material had been removed quickly. The claimant now appealed against his claim being struck out. He argued as to: (1) . .
Cited – Bode v Mundell QBD 19-Oct-2016
The court considered issues about the application of the rules on pleading and proof of publication in defamation, the serious harm requirement in s 1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013, and the abuse of process doctrine in Jameel (Yousef) v Dow Jones . .
Cited – Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd (1) CA 12-Sep-2017
Defamation – presumption of damage after 2013 Act
The claimant said that the defendant had published defamatory statements which were part of a campaign of defamation brought by his former wife. The court now considered the requirement for substantiality in the 2013 Act.
Held: The defendant’s . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Defamation, Human Rights, Litigation Practice
Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.222167